Saturday, October 10, 2015


Over the past week and a half my parents have come and gone, and in that time we managed to cover a decent amount of Serbian soil. We began in Central Europe and worked our way south to the Balkan Peninsula. While separated by only a couple hundred kilometers, these regions have very different histories which has led them to appear as if they were much further apart.

I first met up with them in Subotica, a town that borders Hungary. Before they arrived, I stopped by the tourist information office and was surprised to find that most maps, pamphlets, and brochures bore the following symbol:

It’s especially interesting to me that this Hungary-Serbia project is partially funded by the EU since Serbia is not a member state.

With colorful buildings designed in the Hungarian secessionist style of Art Nouveau, Subotica more like Hungary than it does like the rest of Serbia. Historically, Subotica and Hungary are closely linked as both fell under the Hapsburg Empire and then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Hungarian presence is still strong as more than a third of the 100,000 inhabitants are Hungarian and do not consider themselves Serbs. Even the street signs express this duality.

Lines one and two are written in Serbian with Cyrillic characters, three and four in Serbian with Latin characters, and five and six in Hungarian.

A similar example with Cyrillic Serbian, Hungarian, then Latinic Serbian.

People's theatre, written thrice

Unlike Central and Southern Serbia (part of the Balkan Peninsula), Vojvodina (Northern Serbia/part of Central Europe) shows no signs of Turkish influences, and the Eastern Orthodox Church makes way for Roman Catholicism.

Here are some fine examples of the Art Nouveau architecture that makes Subotica unique:

This stunning synagogue has fallen into disrepair since the once strong Jewish population has basically disappeared throughout this region.

To tour the building, you simply cross the street to the Municipal Museum and ask the receptionist to unlock it. The clerk was pleased that I could speak Serbian and then taken aback when she discovered that my parents came all the way from Hawaii, so she gave us a museum pass that covers fifty museums in Vojvodina (autonomous province in Northern Serbia) and Southern Hungary. The Hungary-Serbia EU-funded project strikes again.

From the inside of the synagogue:

If you’ve been to Bratislava, this might remind you of another pothole statue. These strange yet charming figures are advertised in their respective TIs, a sign of a small town:

Another tourist site is the Art Nouveau town hall.

Note the golden arches.

Built in the beginning of the 20th century, this building still serves as the main government headquarters. Similar to the synagogue, to go inside you visit the souvenir shop located on the ground floor and ask for a guide to take you to the clock tower.

Vines adorning the stairwell up to the clock tower. 

Inside the town hall:

This stained glass from the town hall depicts Hapsburg superstars Franz Josef and Maria Theresa. In the late 18th century, Maria Theresa changed its name to Maria Theresiopolis.

Views from the clock tower:

 The buildings in the foreground, part of the town hall, remind me of gingerbread houses.

Some photos from a farmer’s market:
Here’s a sampling of pickled veggies, very popular in Serbia especially as winter nears.

This shows the vast options available at a single stall. Meat, jam, candy bars, shampoo, coffee, disinfectant…

Lovely mama bear gamboling in the pedestrian zone

Nearby Subotica lies Palić, which began as a spa-town in the 19th century and remains famous for its lake. Having fond memories visiting this lake at sunset with my bridge year pals five years back, I insisted that my parents and I go there at sundown and it did not disappoint.

Also known for its whimsical Art Nouveau style, Palić has many buildings that seem right out of Disneyland.

The most high tech notification system I've seen in the Balkans. The bus arrived about 20 minutes later, but it's a start!

Although it had been almost exactly five years since I’d visited this quaint area, a comforting familiarity and hearty nostalgia made this re-visiting memorable.

1 comment:

  1. Katherine,

    These are beautiful photos!

    James in NY